Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur

Abu Yusuf al-Mansur
Caliph of Morocco
Reign 1184–1199
Predecessor Abu Ya'qub Yusuf
Successor Muhammad al-Nasir
Born 1160
Died 1199
Burial Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Dynasty Almohad
Religion Sunni Islam

Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb al-Manṣūr (Arabic: ابو يوسف يعقوب المنصور) (c. 1160 Morocco – 23 January 1199 Marrakesh, Morocco), also known as Moulay Yacoub, was the third Berber Almohad Caliph.[1] Succeeding his father, al-Mansur reigned from 1184 to 1199. His reign was distinguished by the flourishing of trade, architecture, philosophy and the sciences, as well as by victorious military campaigns in which he was able to temporarily stem the tide of Christian Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula.

Dynastic and Iberian Wars

Al-Mansur's father was killed in Portugal on 29 July 1184; upon reaching Seville with his father's body on 10 August, he was immediately proclaimed the new caliph.[1] Al-Mansur vowed revenge for his father's death, but fighting with the Almoravids, who had been ousted from the throne, delayed him in Africa. After inflicting a new defeat on the Almoravids, he set off for the Iberian Peninsula to avenge his father's death.

His 13 July 1190 siege of Tomar, center of the Portuguese Templars failed to capture the fortress. However, further south he in 1191 recaptured a major fortress, Paderne Castle and the surrounding territory near Albufeira, in the Algarve - which had been controlled by the Portuguese army of King Sancho I since 1182. Having inflicted other defeats on the Christians and captured major cities, he returned to Morocco with three thousand Christian captives.

Upon Al-Mansur's return to Africa, however, Christians in Iberian Peninsula resumed the offensive, capturing many of the Moorish cities, including Silves, Vera, and Beja.

When Al-Mansur heard this news, he returned to the Iberian Peninsula, and defeated the Christians again. This time, many were taken in chained groups of fifty each, and later sold in Africa as slaves.

While Al-Mansur was away in Africa, the Christians mounted the largest army of that period, of over 300,000 men, to defeat Al-Mansur. However, immediately upon hearing this, Al-Mansur returned again to Iberia and defeated Castilian King Alfonso VIII Alfonso's army in the Battle of Alarcos, on 18 July 1195. It was said that Al-Mansur's forces killed 150,000 and took money, valuables and other goods "beyond calculation". It was after this victory that he took the title al-Mansur Billah ("Made Victorious by God").

Internal policy

During his reign, Al-Mansur undertook several major projects. He built the Koutoubia and El Mansouria mosques in Marrakech and the kasbah of the Udayas, accessed by Bab Agnaou and Bab Ksiba in the southern part of its medina. He attempted to build what would have been the world's largest mosque in Rabat. However, construction on the mosque stopped after al-Mansur died. Only the beginnings of the mosque had been completed, including the Hassan Tower.

Al-Mansur protected the philosopher Averroes and kept him as a favorite at court. Like many of the Almohad caliphs, Al-Mansur was religiously learned. He favored the Zahirite or literalist school of Muslim jurisprudence per Almohad doctrine and possessed a relatively extensive education in the Muslim prophetic tradition; he even wrote his own book on the recorded statements and actions of the prophet Muhammad.[2] Mansur's Zahirism was clear when he ordered his judges to exercise judgment only according to the Qur'an, said recorded statements and absolute consensus. Mansur's father Abu Yaqub appointed Cordoban polymath Ibn Maḍāʾ as chief judge, and the two of them oversaw the banning of all non-Zahirite religious books during the Almohad reforms;[3] Mansur was not satisfied, and when he inherited the throne he ordered Ibn Maḍāʾ to actually undertake the burning of such books.[4]

Death and heritage

He died in Marrakech, Morocco.

His victory in Alarcos was remembered for centuries later, when the tide of war turned against the Muslim side. It is recounted by the historian Abou Mohammed Salah ben Abd el-Halim in his 1326 Rawd al-Qirtas ("History of the Rulers of Morocco").[5]

The town of Moulay Yacoub, outside of Fez, Morocco, is named after Al-Mansur, and is best known for its therapeutic hot springs.

Preceded by
Abu Ya'qub Yusuf
Almohad dynasty
Succeeded by
Muhammad an-Nasir


  1. 1 2 Ambrosio Huici Miranda, Abū Yūsuf Yaʿḳūb b. Yūsuf b. ʿ Abd al-Muʾmin al-Manṣūr. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. 9 January 2013
  2. Kojiro Nakamura, "Ibn Mada's Criticism of Arab Grammarians." Orient, v. 10, pgs. 89-113. 1974
  3. Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Linguistic Tradition, pg. 142. Part of Landmarks in Linguistic Thought series, vol. 3. New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 9780415157575
  4. Shawqi Daif, Introduction to Ibn Mada's Refutation of the Grammarians, pg. 6. Cairo, 1947.
  5. French translation by A. Beaumier, 1860
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